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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The rest of the Council meeting   

The Council meeting last night was long Meeting video but provided a good Civics 100 lesson. It also generated blogger-angst unrelated to the issues, which was addressed in the previous post. The gist of the meeting is on the City’s website and is covered in local papers. The whole thing can be experienced on the City’s site

Two speakers addressed concerns similar to their prior presentations; one was concerned about the Bark Park. His issue last night was the unfairness of letting big dogs into the small dog area.

Another speaker again advocated cleaning up the crime niduses and developing the Westside area. The approach he used last time was that of a drill sergeant, but this time he used the approach of a well-informed citizen speaking for an improved City.

Let's make it happen

His ideas are sound, and we believe that the current City Council is working that direction. His repeated presentations are goads, or at least reminders, that the problem has been defined and at least some of the causes identified; now it’s time to intervene. And, the sooner we intervene the (relatively) less difficult the intervention will be.

The meeting ended with an appeal by the Director of the Churches Consortium. As usual,Heyhoe's presentation was concise, organized, and impassioned. Her comments at City Council meetings should be emulated by the “frequent fliers.”

A partnership with a couple of relief groups was endorsed last night and the City is using newly-hired enforcement agents to encourage the motel and derelict building owners to toe the line – like every other business in Costa Mesa.

Another quiet volunteer

Mayor Righeimer recused himself from the partnership debate because he is on the BOD of Mercy House. No back-patting, chest thumping or speeches about his volunteer work. Just rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

Wait, you cry. Is that the Righeimer who the Anti-Everything folks call callused and hard-headed and even downright cruel? Yup, and the same guy who shared with a newspaper that he prays for humility.

How dare you enforce rules on her 

A local blogger lambasted him for reminding a frequent -- very frequent -- speaker that she had not identified herself in time as wanting to address the Council.

Pre-identifying folks interested in speaking is a method of controlling the flow of a meeting. If speakers “dribble” to the podiums to speak, a manipulative group can extend discussion endlessly as it recruits new speakers and provides talking points.

This may have happened last night. Perhaps the frequent speaker was getting her instructions and talking points and neglected to go to the podium in time to indicate that she wanted to speak. (Texting reigns supreme in Council meetings.)

The frequent-talker arrived as the “last” speaker was finishing and was gently admonished by the Mayor. The local blogger was critical of the Mayor’s assertion of his authority. Apparently the blogger doesn't believe speakers he likes should have to follow the same rules that apply to others.

Government working 

Here’s the good civics example. A developer is trying to develop an odd-shaped lot with a significant grade. He has appeared before the Planning Commission several times, returning each time that he fixes complaints from neighbors, meets unique requirements imposed by the Fire Department, and overcomes other objections. He requested a group of variances for two of the buildings he proposes, and one variance for the project as a whole.

Variances (exemptions from specific code requirements) are supposed to “level the playing field” and allow equitable use of different properties with the same zoning, but with different and unique challenges. For example, the developer of a small, irregular, hilly property would be unfairly penalized if his property were governed by the same detailed requirements applied to a large, square, level plot.

The Planning Commission investigates and reviews

The Planning Commission reviewed the variances requested, the comments of neighbors, and the changes in plans – over and over. When all of the requirements were addressed by the developer, the Commission voted 5:0 to approve the design with the variances. The City Council’s job was to insure that due diligence was done to protect the interests of the City.

Although Council Member Genis grilled the developer and the City Staff diligently and ad nauseam, the measure passed. The Mayor Pro Tem noted that the design was not to his taste, but that the developer had met all requirements from the Planning Commission and City Staff, and was in compliance with the law, per the City Attorney.

One must wonder about the motivation of Council Member Genis to pound the staff and developer relentlessly (the Mayor asked her several times to return to the question being decided). Also make one wonder how she responds to relentless nit-picking from the dais when she's hired to work up similar projects in her professional life.

Council did its job

Regardless, the Planning Commission did its job of protecting the City and guiding the builder. The City Staff did its job of researching applicable State regulations and appropriate engineering principles and practices. The Staff and Attorney did their jobs by identifying and applying local ordinances and identifying other variances that had been granted in like developments.

Finally, the developer’s plans were accepted; he had met the requirements, explained his plans, and defended his proposal. (And endured a long and grueling grilling – sorry, couldn't resist.)

Opponents had been heard, although mostly about matters that the City Council couldn't affect, such as verbal agreements alleged between the developer and a home owner.  Government worked last night, at least partly due to solid leadership and at least three, and probably four, members’ strong knowledge of the job of Council Members.

Good work, even though we sympathize with the homeowner who felt betrayed, and we certainly don’t like the looks of the proposed buildings.

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